May. 29, 2013
Rimouski (Québec) May 29- Ninety-nine years ago today, the Empress of Ireland
sank beneath the waters of the St. Lawrence River in just 14 minutes. The passenger liner departed Quebec City on May 28, 1914, and in the early morning hours, collided with a Norwegian ship in a fog bank just off of Sainte-Luce-sur-mer near Rimouski.
On the morning of May 29, news of the death toll reached the world: of the 1,477 people aboard, 1,012 perished. Only 4 of the children aboard were saved. A few weeks later, the First World War broke out, and the Empress of Ireland
was all but forgotten.
Now, nearly 100 years after the tragedy, those who survived have all passed on. Still, unlike the Titanic
, which sank on its first crossing, the Empress of Ireland
had been plying the seas for eight years when it set off on its 192nd crossing, its fateful final voyage. In that time, tens of thousands of people had come to North America aboard the Empress of Ireland
to start their lives anew.
The Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père (SHMP) in Rimouski was established over 30 years ago by divers who were passionate about the ship. The SHMP tells the story of this little-known tragedy and is planning a year full of activities to honour the 100th anniversary of the sinking in 2014.
In an effort to find descendants of passengers and crew of the Empress of Ireland
, the SHMP has undertaken a cross-Canada tour beginning at Toronto's Salvation Army Heritage Centre. On May 29, 1914, 170 Salvationists were aboard the Empress of Ireland
on their way to London for a major international convention. The organization commemorates the tragic sinking every year at Toronto's Mount Pleasant cemetery, and we were there.
The tour was made possible thanks to the support of Canadian Heritage, CBC-Radio-Canada, TC Media and Canadream
Photo: The Mount pleasant Cemetery ceremonial